Ceann Comhairle steps in to block Anti-Evictions Bill on behalf of the government

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said the party had abstained from the vote because they believe the bill to be legally flawed

Ceann Comhairle steps in to block Anti-Evictions Bill on behalf of the government

Ceann Comhairle, Sean O Fearghail TD, 16-12-2016. Image: Sam Boal RollingNews

Updated 16:15

The Ceann Comhairle has used his casting vote to back the government in the Dáil after voting on an opposition bill aimed at protecting renters against eviction was tied at 51 votes apiece.

The Anti-Evictions Bill, put forward by the Anti-Austerity Alliance / People Before Profit (AAA-PBP) aimed to close “loopholes allowing legal eviction” ahead of a property sale or rent increase.

Longstanding Dáil precedent dictates that when there is a hung vote, the Ceann Comhairle - regardless of party history - votes with the Government.

The bill would have ensured that a tenant can remain in their home - under the same terms and conditions - when a property is sold by a landlord, bank or ‘vulture fund.’

It also aimed to address the so-called ‘family member rule’ by ensuring that compensation “equivalent to six months’ rent” would be paid to a tenant if they are evicted on the basis that a landlord - or a member of the landlord’s family - is planning on moving in to the property.

Finally it would have reduced the period of time before a tenancy is given ‘Part 4’ status - from six months to two months.

Narrow defeat

Following an initial vote the bill was defeated by 51 to 50 after Fianna Fáil abstained from the vote.

In response, the AAA-PBP called a 'vote through the lobbies' - in the hope that any politician who was in the building but had failed to cast a vote might be able to swing the outcome. 

The second round of voting resulted in a tie - leaving the Ceann Comhairle with the casting vote.

Fianna Fáil's Seán Ó Fearghaíl said he would follow the lead of his predecessors and vote with the government.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl's vote turned the ballot in the government’s favour 52 - 51.

This is the first time since 2010 that the Ceann Comhairle has had to break a tie.

AAA TD Ruth Coppinger who introduced the bill said the government had been “rattled” by the close-fought contest.

 

“A growing number of parties now feel the pressure of the mood in society for tenant protection from homelessness,” said Deputy Coppinger. 

“Tenants and anyone facing homelessness should note that it was the 35 abstentions from Fianna Fáil that has ensured all the cards remain in the hands of landlords in this country - who can deal out an eviction notice at any time.

“I also question the stance of the Ceann Comhairle. It is not convention that he must vote to stop a bill progressing for more debate.

“it is up to the government to have the numbers - not him to save them.”

Legally flawed

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said the party had chosen to abstain from the vote as they felt the bill was legally flawed.

"While there are elements of the Bill that in principal we agree with, unfortunately the Bill is highly flawed and if passed could be successfully challenged in court," said the spokesperson.

"The crisis in the rental market is complex and all solutions for increasing tenant security have to be legally sound."